The Land :: www.TheLandOnline.com

Nuts & Bolts

July 31, 2012

Study: Pop music has grown louder, dumber and all sounds the same

WASHINGTON — According to a new study from researchers at the Spanish National Research Council, the familiar complaint that contemporary popular music has grown loud, predictable and simpler than ever may be exactly right. While we often cast a skeptical eye toward quantitative studies of music like this one, a closer examination of the paper reveals that even for skeptics the analysis may have a point — even if the portrait it paints is incomplete.

Here's how the study worked. The analysts ran 464,411 recordings from all genres of popular music from the period of 1955-2010 (called the "Million Song Dataset") through a complex set of algorithms to analyze three metrics: harmonic complexity, timbral diversity and loudness. The results indicated that, on the whole, popular music over the past half-century has become blander and louder than it used to be.

To understand these findings, it's worth briefly delving into the terms in question. Most people are familiar with the idea that popular songs are constructed chiefly of a melody (usually the lead vocal line or tune) and supporting harmonies called chords (rhythm is the other chief component, but more on that later). The study found that, since the '50s, there has been a decrease not only in the diversity of chords in a given song, but also in the number of novel transitions, or musical pathways, between them. In other words, while it's true that pop songs have always been far more limited in their harmonic vocabularies than, say, a classical symphony, past decades saw more inventive ways of linking their harmonies together than we hear now. It's the difference between Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" (2012), which contains four simple chords presented one after another almost as blocks, and Alex North's "Unchained Melody" (1955), which, though also relatively harmonically simple (it employs about six or seven chords, depending on the version), transitions smoothly from chord to chord due to more subtle orchestration.

Text Only
Nuts & Bolts
  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Your chocolate addiction is only going to get more expensive

    For nearly two years, cocoa prices have been on the rise. Finally, that's affecting the price you pay for a bar of chocolate - and there's reason to believe it's only the beginning.

    July 18, 2014

  • Afghanistan vet who ran to grenade gets Medal of Honor

    A former Marine Corps corporal who was severely wounded when he risked his life to shield a squad mate from a grenade blast in Afghanistan was awarded the nation's highest military decoration Thursday.

    June 20, 2014

  • May 2014 was the hottest may in recorded history

    According to new data released this week, May 2014 is officially the warmest May in recorded history.
    Both NASA and the Japan Meteorological Agency have tentatively ranked May at the top of historical measurements, though NASA's numbers are preliminary because crucial information is still missing from China.

    June 20, 2014

  • Nelly-elephant.jpg Bet the farm: 5 'psychic' animals predict soccer victories

    Need some guidance on whom to place your bets for this year's World Cup? Since Paul the Octopus achieved a prediction success rate of 85 percent in 2010, hosts of animal oracles around the world have sought attention as soccer sages. Here's a look at a few of them.

    June 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Is the FDA waging a war on artisanal cheese?

    Is the Food and Drug Administration waging a war on artisanal cheese?
    The answer depends on your perspective. But this much is certain: The agency's answer to New York regulators about using wooden boards to age cheese has caused an uproar in the domestic industry and raised questions about the status of imported cheeses that use the same process.

    June 12, 2014

  • Texting while driving is latest teen risk as smoking declines

    While smoking among American teens has fallen to a 22-year low, most adolescents admit to engaging in a new type of risky behavior: texting while driving.

    June 12, 2014

  • No one is against devoted dads

    Father's Day is Sunday, which means that it's time for pundits and politicians to scold the American public - with special ire reserved for black members of the American public - for our supposed indifference to the wonder and awe of fatherhood.

    June 12, 2014

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg College World Series finally onto baseball-like scores

    College baseball deadened its aluminum bats three years ago, deflating the game's offense and dialing back runaway scores. Fans who watch this year's College World Series may actually catch a shutout, or even a pitchers' duel.

    June 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jeffrey Land mg.jpg Tough scrape: Inmate faces new charges after failed escape try

    An inmate at a Georgia detention center could spend more time behind bars after officials said he tried to use a piece of metal to cut through his cell wall in an apparent escape attempt.

    June 12, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
The Land's Twitter Feed